Bacolod mayor won’t pay P98M for ‘expired’ COVID vaccines

Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez

By Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez said that he “will do his best ability not to pay” AstraZeneca the reported balance of P98 million for the vaccines “ordered” by the previous administration under former mayor Evelio Leonardia.

In a press conference Monday, Benitez said AstraZeneca representatives met with him Friday.

“I thought it was a courtesy call at first,” Benitez said, adding that the group instead informed him that they would like to collect the P98 million for the ordered vaccines.

The city government ordered around 650,000 doses of COVID vaccines from the British pharmaceutical firm in 2021 costing more than P150 million.

The city government already made partial payment of P65 million for the more than 260,000 doses utilized in the vaccination program against COVID-19.

Benitez said he was also informed by the City Health Office that the 260,000 doses delivered by AstraZeneca have been fully utilized already.

But AstraZeneca informed him that the city government still has 434,000 doses of the 650,000 vials which are in the Department of Health’s storage but are due to expire in two weeks.

He stressed that the city government has not received the 434,000 doses, adding that AstraZeneca told him that they delivered the doses, but the city government will not accept because it already has exceeded its vaccination target.

“It was delivered late last year which Bacolod City did not accept,” Benitez said.

Benitez said he told the Astra Zenica representatives that “you have to excuse me, but I will try to the best of my ability not to pay you.”

He will also investigate the contract and its details.

When asked on the increasing number of COVID cases and what to do with the borders Benitez said, “we have to learn to live with COVID, that will not disappear, it will always be there.”

He said he has tasked the Public Information Office to conduct massive information drive for the citizens on what to do.

“The idea is to educate the citizenry on how to take care of themselves so they can learn to live with COVID.”

Bacolod has 19 actives cases so far.

Benitez also said that Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran will no longer head the local IATF and will be taken over by Dr. Laarni Pornan who is the City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office head and was tasked to oversee the city government’s response to the pandemic.